My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets and Appliances
We do a lot of cooking and baking in our house, so our kitchen equipment has to work well and stand up to lots of use. With that in mind, here are the kitchen gadgets and appliances that I consider essential. These are all things that we’ve used for years.
For years I just used cheap spatulas, and they always mildewed around the seam where the rubber spatula connected with the handle. Then, I scored a couple Kitchenaid spatulas at a thrift store, and I’ll never buy anything else again. Since the tops come off for washing, you don’t have to worry about water getting trapped between the two pieces. I just allow both parts to dry completely before I put them back together.
This OXO Good Grips Large Silicone Flexible Turner is thinner and wider than most spatulas, so it gets under foods better and makes turning easier. This is our go-to spatula, when we’re making pancakes.
The Wilton Really Big Spatula is good for scooping cookies off a baking sheet without breaking them, but it also works really well for flipping omelettes and burgers.
A cookie scoop is one of the first kitchen gadgets that I invested in, and it’s still going strong after countless batches of cookies. It makes it easy to quickly portion out cookie dough, but can also be used to scoop melon or form meatballs. They’re typically sold in three sizes. If you buy just one, go with the medium-sized one.
These Lodge Pan Scrapers are just the thing to remove stuck on food from your cast iron cookware, without scratching or removing seasoning. And they’re dirt cheap.
I bought my first Swingaway can opener when I was in college, and it served me well for a number of years. When it finally wore out, I tried a few pricier brands, and they just didn’t compare. Now, I’m a Swingaway user for life.
Store-bought cooking spray has silicon, propellants and other nasties in it, so I use the Misto Oil Sprayer instead. You just fill it up with whatever oil you want, pump the lid to build up pressure and spray. I keep one filled with olive oil, and another one filled with canola oil. Occasionally the nozzles gets clogged, but that’s nothing a quick cleaning can’t fix.
This KitchenAid Strainer is a definite must-have in my kitchen. I use it to strain fat out of broth, to remove seeds from cranberry sauce and jelly, to drain the whey out of homemade cheese and for so many other things. It’s designed to sit on the rim of a bowl, which allows you to use it hands-free. With as much as I use it, I’m surprised that the fine-mesh screen hasn’t ripped out of it, but it’s still in perfect shape.
Silpats are a game changer. Seriously. After years of hearing people rave about them, I finally bought a couple, and we use them every week. They’re the ultimate no-stick cooking surface for cookie sheets. Cookies slide right off of them, and you don’t have to deal with any stuck-on food on the pan (which my husband, the dishwasher, loves). Did I mention that my husband loves these? I mean, he actually goes out of his way to tell me how much he loves these on a regular basis. When do guys ever get excited about kitchen gadgets?
These five-bladed herb scissors make quick work of chopping fresh herbs, and are fun to use. The included comb makes it easy to clean out any herbs that get stuck between the blades.
I try to sharpen my kitchen knives regularly, but that doesn’t mean I want a bulky knife sharpener taking up space in my drawer. I bought this two-stage sharpener several years ago, and I’ve been really pleased with it. It takes up almost no space, and it does an excellent job. The design makes it easy to put the proper angle on your knives, (something I’d never get right with a sharpening steel).
With all the cooking that goes on in my house, our cutting boards really get a workout. We own TruBamboo cutting boards in a variety of sizes, and they’re very well made. We haven’t had any of the warping or separation that is common with cheaper bamboo cutting boards. To keep them in good condition, I season them regularly.
I don’t know how I ever did without a kitchen scale. I use it ALL the time. This Ozeri scale is nice because it doesn’t take up much space, and it can weigh up to 12 pounds at a time.
Ever tried to hold a gallon-size freezer bag open and fill it at the same time? Not easy. So, I use these freezer bag holders to hold my bags open, while I’m filling them. It keeps the bags from flopping around, and serves as that extra set of hands that I need to get the job done.
Regular measuring spoons don’t fit inside spice jars, and that makes it really hard to measure out spices without spilling them everywhere. I picked up a set of these RSVP Endurance Spice Measuring Spoons from a yard sale, and now I’m a convert. These fit inside all of my spice jars, so I get precise measurements, without spills.
The edges of a pie crust tend to burn while you’re waiting for the center to cook. You can protect the crust by wrapping it in aluminum foil, but the foil tends to fall off when you’re sliding the pie in and out of the oven. I came across these pie crust shields a few years back, and I’ve been using them ever since. It consists of an adjustable silicone ring that fits over the edge of the pie plate. I stick it on before my pie goes in the oven, and take it off at the end of the baking time. The crust always comes out perfect.
This brown sugar keeper is a game changer. I bought one at an estate sale, and have been surprised at how effective it is at keeping my brown sugar soft. It has a small terra cotta disk that fits on the inside of the lid. You wet it with water once every few months, and that little bit of moisture keeps your brown sugar from drying out. Brilliant!
This Progressive Powdered Sugar Keeper holds a full, one-pound bag of powdered sugar. It prevents messes in the pantry, and when you’re measuring out powdered sugar. There’s even a fine-mesh shaker built in for dusting powdered sugar on your finished baked goods.
I picked up an OXO measuring jigger at a yard sale, and I absolutely love it. It makes it easy to measure out small amounts of liquids quickly and precisely. It has marks from 1/2 tablespoon all the way up to four tablespoons, so you don’t have to bother with filling a measuring spoon more than once, when you need multiple tablespoons of something. And you don’t have to worry about spilling, like you do when you try to fill a measuring spoon with a liquid ingredient.
I’m a buy-it-once kind of girl, and these Lodge cast iron muffin pans will never need to be replaced. The cups are a bit smaller than what you’d find in a traditional muffin tin, but I don’t mind a bit. They come pre-seasoned and ready for their first batch of muffins. I recommend something with pumpkin.
When I spotted this Lodge cast iron griddle at a yard sale in never-used condition, you better believe I snatched it up. It fits over two burners, allowing you to cook a lot of food at once, and it has both a smooth side and a ridged side. The deep channel along the edge does a good job of capturing fat and other liquids, so they don’t run over onto your stove. And it comes pre-seasoned, so you have a nice non-stick surface from day one.
We like to forage for nuts in the fall, and at this point I think we’ve tried just about every nut cracker out there. Most of them have ended up in our yard sale pile, but the Reed’s Rocket Nutcracker has earned a permanent spot in our kitchen drawer. It’s well made; makes quick work on shelling; and is much easier on the hands than a traditional hand-held cracker.
The Crock-Pot Casserole Slow Cooker is a holiday game-changer. It has a removable 9″ x 13″ stoneware crock, so you can free up your oven, by cooking your casseroles in the crockpot, and still have a casserole dish to carry to the table. Since the crock is oven-safe, you can even pop your casserole in the oven for a few minutes to brown the top, before serving.
My Cuisinart immersion blender really earns its keep. I mostly use it to blend soups, and love that I can do that right on the stove, without having to transferring the soup over to a blender. My husband (the dishwasher) loves that it’s easy to clean.
A Kitchenaid mixer is a big investment, and I really drug my feet when it came to buying one (even though I knew I’d love it). My husband surprised me with one on our anniversary, and I love it as much as I expected to. It gets used so often, I just keep it out on the counter. I have the 7-qt professional series, and it handles anything I throw at it beautifully.
It can be kind of tricky to add ingredients around the head of a mixer without spilling, so we added a pouring shield to my Kitchenaid mixer. It’s just a plastic piece with a chute off to the side, that fits over top of the bowl. The chute makes it loads easier to add ingredients without making a big mess on the counter. I’ve owned my mixer for several years now, and it’s still the only attachment that I’ve bought (unless you count the meat grinder that I found at a yard sale).
I waited WAY too long to buy this KitchenAid food chopper. I use it whenever I have something small to dice, so I don’t have to drag my big food processor out. I had a cheapie food processor before I bought this one, and there’s just no comparison. This one has a powerful motor, and I expect to get years of service out of it.
Here’s my big food processor. It’s also a Kitchenaid, only this one holds nine cups. When I spotted it at a yard sale, I wasted no time in snatching it up. It’s a workhorse, and has all kinds of cool attachments. Whenever I have a lot of chopping or grating to do, I pull it out. It’s such a time-saver. I like it so much, I’ve since purchased a back up at a yard sale.
We used a hand-crank ice cream maker for years. Then, our friend gave us an electric Cuisinart ice cream maker, and it was a total game changer. It has a cyclinder that you keep in the freezer, which eliminates the need for rock salt. I keep a quart of whipping cream in the fridge, so we can make ice cream whenever the mood strikes. And now that it’s as simple as dumping a few ingredients in and flipping a switch, the mood strikes often. Seriously, I basically don’t buy ice cream any more. That same friend also got us hooked on homemade magic shell. #badinfluence
Several years ago my friend got a Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator for Christmas. She had no plans to use it, so she passed it on to me. Score! I’ve been using it ever since, and I have to say, I love it. I use it to dry tomatoes and herbs and to make fruit leather. There are plenty of fancier and pricier dehydrators on the market (I think this is honestly the cheapest option out there), but you know what? This one does everything I need it to. In fact, I like it so well, when I came across another one at a yard sale for $4, I bought it too.
I like to dry my own spices, so a spice grinder is a handy tool to have. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; this Proctor Silex number works fine for me. To keep my spices tasting like spices and my husband’s coffee tasting like coffee, we have dedicated grinders for each task (I labeled them with our label maker to keep them straight).
It took many years, and a killer sale, for me to finally splurge on a Blendtec Blender. Now, that I have one, I wish I’d done it a lot sooner. This thing is an absolute beast, and blends anything you throw at it. I feel like I’ve barely touched the surface of what it can do. I tried to save money by buying a much cheaper Ninja blender, but it didn’t take long for it to break.
I pack my kids’ lunches every day, and I’ve devised a lunchbox system that generates no waste (you can read all about that here). These Lunchskins reusable sandwich bags are a part of that system. I’ve tried several different reusable bags over the years, and these are my favorite. They’re durable; they’re easy to wash (just throw them in the dishwasher), and they come in lots of fun designs.
These snack-size Lunchskins are another part of that system. They’re perfect for packing chips, fruit and cookies.
And these Kid Conserve containers are yet another piece of that system. I’m not a big fan of plastic, so these stainless steel containers make me happy. They have tight-fitting lids, which enable me to pack things like yogurt, without having to worry about lunchbox spills. And my kids have no trouble getting the lids off or on. We’ve been using these almost daily for the past several years, and they still look like they did when I bought them. We have the large and small size (but we use the large containers the most).
My husband and I started collecting Fiesta dishes soon after we married. They’re our everday dishes, and I wouldn’t dream of replacing them. All of the fun colors fit in perfectly with our 50s appliances.
When I started making my own broth, I needed containers to freeze it in. These Stor Keeper freezer containers are perfect. They come in multiple sizes; the lids go on and off easily; and they stack beautifully. If I froze my broth in freezer jars, I wouldn’t get anywhere near as many in the freezer. I use the quart jars for my broth.
Ball freezer jars are my canning jar of choice. They have thicker walls than traditional canning jars, so I can use them to can or freeze, and they’re wide-mouthed, so they’re also easier to fill. I have quite a few half-pint and pint jars, but I still don’t have enough to support my canning habits.